For women under 60, how about a quiet ‘sorry’?

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By then one of AstraZeneca’s two home countries, Sweden, had reinstated the jab only for over 65s, for whom the death risk of COVID-19 is elevated.

Reading your own masthead’s science writer describe AstraZeneca the next month as “much maligned” , it did cross your mind, do the people given no choice but to have it matter somewhat less?

We had never had it properly explained why our government set the arbitrary-seeming age cut off for other vaccine choices.

We never had it properly explained why our government determined the arbitrary-seeming age cut off for other vaccine choices. It seemed we were corralled behind a fence because authorities had “put all their eggs in one basket” and banked on AstraZeneca as the nation’s “workhorse” while comparable countries invested in up to seven options.

The reassurance we were offered felt patronising at best, but we got together with mates and talked ourselves into the jab in large numbers. This was so noticeable I wrote about it.

In an interview for that article, AMA spokeswoman and GP Dr Ines Rio nailed the truth about us in two words: “Health literate”.

“Women over 50 have high health literacy rates and have read a lot and are unsettled by some material,” said Dr Rio. Even among her own friendship group was a friend aged 55 who was “really reluctant and confused” by what she had read but, like me and my mates, got the shot after talking it through.

“It’s an issue of trust, plain and simple. Telling a person they’re not educated and don’t have enough information undermines that trust.”

Professor Cassandra Szoeke, director of the Healthy Ageing Project at Melbourne University

Others visiting Dr Rio’s clinic told her they were “really anxious” about getting AstraZeneca, something she clearly took seriously.

Professor Cassandra Szoeke, a Melbourne University women’s health expert, said she believed the two main reasons my age-group were more hesitant were that we had been asked to put our trust in a troubled rollout (The Age has dubbed it “botched”), and that we’re aware decisions we make for ourselves may have impacts on those in our care.

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“People do have the knowledge and the information. It’s an issue of trust: if the government says vaccinate, you have to trust the government and the Chief Medical Officer to vaccinate. Against this is … you see a headline saying they had only one job [managing the vaccine rollout] and they got it wrong,” she said.

“It’s an issue of trust, plain and simple. Telling a person they’re not educated and don’t have enough information undermines that trust, it makes people think ‘you don’t really understand or know me’, that makes it harder.”

The odds of anything bad happening were always tiny, as Professor Szoeke also stressed, and when COVID-19 came back to Victoria it was notable how quickly so many got in line despite background nerves.

Now the AZ age limit has been raised by not five but 10 years, our worries have been shown to have at least some justification. It would not kill federal authorities to acknowledge this. Booked and going for my second jab, I’d happily settle for a whispered “thanks”.

Wendy Tuohy is a senior writer.



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